Review: The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood

submerged_cathedral.jpg The Submerged Cathedral
Charlotte Wood

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award.]

Charlotte Wood doesn't hurry the writing of her novels. Her first, Pieces of a Girl, was started in 1994 after the death of her mother and published in 1999; The Submerged Cathedral, her second, has followed five years later. While this production schedule doesn't affect the novel in any way it does give an indication of the pace of the book: slow, languorous and contemplative.

The novel follows the love affair between Jocelyn and Martin from their first meeting in 1963 to the final section of the book in 1984. Familial ties are strengthened and broken, love is made and lost, and characters grow throughout the novel in sometimes strange and unexpected ways. The only discordant note I found in the novel concerns two major turning points in the plot. I found it a bit peculiar that the strong characters involved would stand silently by and allow their circumstances to change so greatly without some response. But the rest of the novel flows beautifully and it may well be that this reader has missed something of importance that would explain it all. For a while, about halfway though the book, I couldn't see where it was all headed. The characters seemed to be walking and talking with little in the way of any forward movement and I was becoming rather impatient. I shouldn't have worried. Wood brings it all together rather well, and the ending is both satisfying and hopeful. I can see that I will be coming back to this book at
some time in the future - probably when Wood's next novel is published.

Can we make that somewhat less than five years distant, please?

Current Matilda ranking for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award:
1. The White Earth by Andrew McGahan
2. The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood
3. Salt Rain by Sarah Armstrong

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 20, 2005 8:04 PM.

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